Too many ideas, not enough time.

I recently came up with an excellent idea for a book journal, the sort of thing Chronicle Books would publish and PaperSource would sell in a fancy display. It would be more popular than those One Line a Day journals, or the journals of lists and whatnot. It would also be deep and brilliant and wonderful. I just have to figure out a way to properly present it, and my future as a book journal developer is assured. In the meantime, it occurred to me that I could blog the journal as well, almost as a way of developing ideas for it. So then I thought, "Let's start a new blog!" And then I looked at the blogs I already maintain... and that was that. But someday, perhaps, I may add another blog to the rotation. When that happens, it will be brilliant. Just you wait.


Selections from George MacDonald's "The Fantastic Imagination"

"But indeed your children are not likely to trouble you about the meaning. They find what they are capable of finding, and more would be too much. For my part. I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.
"A fairytale is not an allegory. There may be allegory in it, but it is not an allegory. He must be an artist indeed who can, in any mode, produce a strict allegory that is not a weariness to the spirit . . ."

"The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended.
"I will go farther. The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscious, is - not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself."

"One difference between God's work and man's is, that, while God's work cannot mean more than he meant, man's must mean more than he meant. For in everything that God has made, there is layer upon layer of ascending significance; also he expresses the thought in higher and higher kinds of that thought; it is God's things, his embodied thoughts, which alone a man has to use. . . . A man may well himself discover truth in what he wrote; for he was dealing all the time with things that came from thoughts beyond his own."

"The best way with music, I imagine, is not to bring the forces of our intellect to bear upon it, but to be still and let it work on that part of us for whose sake it exists. We spoil countless precious things by intellectual greed. He who will be a man, and will not be a child, must - he cannot help himself - become a little man, that is, a dwarf. He will, however, need no consolation, for he is sure to think himself a very large creature indeed.
"If any strain of my 'broken music' make a child's eyes flash, or his mother's grow for a moment dim, my labour will not have been in vain."


Hints of things to come

Still reading The Princess and the Goblin (some introductory reader questions to follow), but I came across a collection of welded sculptures from found objects by Brian Mock over at This Is Colossal. This one reminded me of the upcoming The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr. Wonder why...


Unless you become like a little child.

I have been thinking lately that while cynicism comes very quickly to me, it's not very natural. That is, it's become natural, but I'm uncomfortable with it, and especially uncomfortable with its quickness. I don't like my cynical self. I don't remember it being with me always, and I'd like to return to what once was. I think that's what Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald were always pressing toward in their insistence that childlike innocence was something to prize. It always seemed to me such an odd concept - childlike innocence - as I've never met a child who had any less of the beast in them than I do now. But a lack of cynicism, a generosity of spirit is more akin to children than to adults. It certainly is in my own history, at least. I want to return to that. But I find that becoming like a child, which is actually a divine command, is painfully hard to do. One of the things I'm hoping for, I think, in the children's book group I'm reading through, is to somehow recall that, rekindle it, within myself.


The Wind in the Willows

The first book our reading group has been reading is The Wind in the Willows. Considering how much I love both classic literature and children's books, the fact that I hadn't ever read this on my own was somewhat appalling. I had vague memories of my mother reading it to us as children, but the only memories of the story that really stuck were some irrelevant images from the Disney film and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

I did some digging around on the internet for relevant discussion questions (our reading group is premised as "Children's Books for Grown-Ups," so relevant in this case refers to questions not directly related to children's reading levels). There were plenty of classroom-oriented reading guides, questions for young students' essays, that sort of thing. But few questions to guide a group of adults through a decidedly youthful story. (I say youthful in the sense of "childlike" rather than "childish," a distinction which speaks volumes.)

Since I couldn't find much, I came up with a few questions on my own, some of which I will share here. But first, because this really was the best part of all my internet research, here are a few links to find out which character you are:

How is the friendship between Rat and Mole developed? Do you recognize anything from their friendship in your own relationships?

How is the novel's setting in some sense a character in itself?

What are Badger's flaws? How do they compare with Toad's?

What part of Toad's obsession with motor-cars is familiar to you from your own life?

The chapter "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is sandwiched between two chapters in which Toad behaves stupidly. Why do you think Kenneth Grahame chose to place this chapter here? What does this chapter say about the Toad narrative? What does it say about Rat and Mole respectively?

Most abridged editions, film adaptations, and reading guides treat the story of the novel as primarily Toad's. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?

Did Toad change, and if so how? If not, what would explain his behavior?

Badger calls Mole a hero. What parts do each character play in the final "battle," and how do they each seem particularly suited to their roles?

Were you satisfied with the ending?
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